Sunday, June 5, 2011

Climbing mountains

Kenny's spent his entire life trying to drag me out of my comfort zone.

If he wasn't 6 ft.10, I could almost believe the hospital had switched babies on us.  Not that he was 6 ft.10 then, of course.  But he's such a spot-on combination of both my husband and my father that he couldn't possibly belong to anyone else.

I just don't understand why he isn't more like me.

Cautious and careful, I've sought certainty and routine all my life.  I have to know exactly what day the electric bill is due and what to expect when I die.  I don't even read a book until I've checked the last page to assure myself of a satisfying ending.

"Don't you EVER want to be surprised?" my husband sighs in expasperation.  No, I do not.  I want only to be safe and pay my utility bill on time.

But Kenny lives for surprises.  And that would be fine if he would only leave me out of it.

"Mom, just TRY the giant water slide," he coaxed me when he was 11.  And because I hated for him to think I was dull, ten minutes later I was skimming down a 60 foot high-speed water slide too horrified to even breathe.

"This is what it feels like to die," I remember thinking with some small, detached part of myself.

All his life, Kenny has shamed and wheedled me into doing things I hate.  I remember the unspeakable terror of flying upside down on a roller coaster high above Kansas City, cracking my head on a Denver water ride, and foolishly attempting to outrun a 30 foot wave at the "Tsunami" pool.

All because I was ashamed for my boy to think I was boring.

Kenny is still on a quest to force me to have fun against my will, but his suggestions aren't quite so over the top.   This last Memorial Day, John and I visited our oldest son in Denver.  We spent time with my mother-in-law, too, at her new nursing home facility, and, along with Kenny's girlfriend Katie, Grandma, and John's brothers Dave and Cliff, ate dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant.

Katie departed for California the next morning, John spent the day with his mom at the nursing home, and Kenny turned to me with that old familiar glint in his eye.  "We're climbing a mountain today, Mom."

Table Top Mountain boasts an easy trail all the way to the top, and I was proud of my son for suggesting a moderate climb that his aging mother could handle.  "Now when we get to the rocky plateau up there," he pointed, as we rested at the halfway mark, "we'll have to scale to the top with ropes."

My jaw dropped, and I gaped at him.

"Kidding, Mom.  We just climb a few steps," he grinned.

"Why do you do that to me?" I snapped.

"Because," he laughed, "it's so easy!"

But the climb to the top was worth it.  In the distance, the Denver skyline shimmered like Emerald City, and all around us were mountains and high clouds and the soft soughing of the wind.  It was a good moment to share with my boy.

"Mom," he said in the car later, "I know you've said again and again you'd never in your life eat sushi, but I want you to try it.  I know a great sushi bar."  What the heck, I thought.  I'd climbed a mountain today.

Sushi, it turns out, is not half bad.  With a little soy sauce and a lot of cream cheese, you could almost forget you were ingesting raw fish.

Kenny also introduced me to his smartphone.  I fiddled with the keyboard, and he guided me through the menus.  "See that little microphone?" he pointed.  "Tap that and ask for directions to your motel."

It was unbelievable.  "The Comfort Inn in Greeley, Colorado, please?" I asked politely.

Kenny laughed.  "You don't have to be nice to it, Mom.  It's a phone."

It was a great day, and while I missed John and Tommy, I loved having Kenny to myself.  All the kid's ever wanted is for me to enjoy myself.  But the sad truth is that I've allowed my terrible fear of breast cancer and every thing that comes with it to rule my life.

A week from next Thursday on June 16th, six months to the day after my double mastectomy, I am scheduled for my final surgery.  The expanders come out, the implants go in, and I will have my life back.  But with God's help, it won't be the same fearful, careful life I've cautiously led for so long.  I'm determined to be more like my son Kenny.

From the day he entered kindergarten and gazed with expectant blue eyes at his bright new world, he's never looked back.  Embracing every new experience, Kenny views life as an adventure.  I've done my best to reign in his enthusiasm and keep him safe in my old familiar world while he's dragged me kicking and screaming into his.

But if there's any thing the last six months has taught me, it's that confronting my worst fear and looking forward to the future is the only way to live.

Kenny's taught me, too.  With a little luck, he'll yank me up another mountain top or two.

And maybe let me play with his smartphone.

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